Auditor General John Morlu has made his second public appearance before the National Legislature since 2007 informing the lawmakers that the General Auditing commission (GAC) has released more than 30 audit reports to the custody of the National Assembly.
Morlu in his two-hour briefing to the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and Expenditure, said only Jesus Christ can safe an individual who has been challenged to account in his audit report because according to him, the facts and evidence contained in the report are strong and convincing.
“If you read the audit reports, you remember I told you I do things by the law, because you Pass the law, one of the lines in the law is that I as an Auditor General should identify those who engaged in fraud, identify those involve in negligence, identify those who have defaulted in collecting revenues, as AG I must also recommend a system set-up because the Auditor General cannot set up system, you must recommend system setup.”
Power comes with accountability, I am the Auditor General, I believe in the appropriateness and sufficiency of evidence, if I say senator Nyenabo did this! only Jesus Christ can come out to free you,” AG Morlu maintained as he answer a question from Senator Isaac Nyenabo.
The country’s Auditor General told the senate committee that they read the audit reports with clarity, specifically, the aspect on the accountability sheet of the audit report that holds individual accountable in the expenditure of government resources.
The Auditor General assured the lawmakers that the more than 31 audit reports that have been released by the commission, can stand both administratively and judicially, because according to him, evidence contained in the reports are clear and decisive.
“I have submitted to the Legislature 31 audit reports, 12 of which are forensic audit reports (strictly financial crimes investigation. Our audits are done under international conventions , the first thing I do under chapter 53.3 of the new executive law, the Auditor General is required to adopt auditing standards in Liberia, so the first thing I did was to adopt the INTOSAI standard, which is the international organization of supreme Audit institutions. So everything we do is consistent with international standards,”Morlu told the Accounts committee.
Answering questions from senate president Pro tempore Cletus Wortorson on the release of audit reports to the public, Auditor General Morlu said there is no law in the country on what is classified or declassified information that cannot be released to the public.
He said the police also could not give information on what is sensitive information that cannot be release to the public, the decision on what to go in public is purely at the discretion of the Auditor General.
“That’s a very brilliant question; let us stick to the facts. Under the HIPC agreement, signed by Liberia, the Auditor General must release reports in a timely manner. The Auditor General must release reports timely and follow-up on implementation, so if I even follow the international agreement they have, I will be beating at their doors everyday, but I don’t want to be an activist Auditor General.
With respect to confidentiality, what is confidentiality is determined by you, when I came to this country, I spoke to Dr. Fahnbulleh and the president, if you want something to be confidential, then you must go the legislature and have a classification system, classified and Declassified system, but even the police don’t even have it, and the auditing standards says in the absence of a law prohibiting the disclosure or timely disclosure of public information the Auditor General should look at the greater public interest and that is in the INTOSAI standard and I can’t compromise the public’s rights to know,” the country’s tough talking Auditor General told the committee.
Separate Political appointees from Civil Servants
Also following persistent request from the senators for the Auditor General to provide some remedy to the current system breakdown in the country, AG Morlu told the body, the first step in helping to curb the system failure in the country was for political appointees to remove themselves from the simple work of the common civil servant.
Morlu warned that the government will not go anywhere, unless government ministers stop signing cheques and processing vouchers and also distributing gas coupons among lower level employees.
“The first thing is that you protect the integrity of the Minister’s office first, that is the best way the institution can be managed effectively, then you have a good internal audit system, there must also be payroll reconciliation with various government institutions, meaning the government employees must also be given employment letters because in some government areas, employees don’t really have letters of employment. But if I am a minister signing cheques, during procurements and also distributing gas slips among employees of the ministry, anybody can attack me because sometimes I forget what I have done.
Senator Nyenabo? You think anybody can ever come to audit me and say anything, I will fight you, because how can’t I be sure that I have not done something wrong, so automatically I am afraid as a minister,”Morlu continued his two hour long presentation before the Committee on Public Accounts of the Senate.
There are multiple audit reports, that point to the fact that senior level political appointees usurping the functions of the civil servants by engaging in the purchase of something as low as stationery.
The Auditor General according to reports was invited to speak to the work of the General Auditing Commission and the HIPC audits conducted recently, but lawmakers failed to ask specific questions on the HIPC audit, but instead characterized the entire discussion with political issues.
Some audit reports specifically those on the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation, indicted the Senior Senator of Grand Bassa County Gbehzohngar Findley of crediting huge sums of money from the corporation and failing to pay.